Regular readers may have noticed that blog postings have been more infrequent than usual recently. Jenna and I are getting married this weekend, so we have been busy with wedding preparations. Meanwhile, the mycelium has been busy doing its thing, though in northern Vermont the woods still offer only slim early season pickings.
Morel season is over, and I am afraid to admit that I never found any more morels after my triumphant morning finding a patch of nine pristine specimens. Still, I have no complaints – in my first spring as a Vermont resident, I found morels, and Jenna and I savored every last bite of them.
Gary Lincoff recently commented on the New York Mycological Society Facebook page that Laetiporus cincinnatus, the white-pored chicken of the woods, is the best edible mushroom fruiting during the dry spell in between morel season and chanterelle season. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, but unfortunately I have never seen the white-pored chicken this far north. If anyone has seen L. cincinnatus in northern Vermont or New Hampshire, please share your finds!
Luckily, Vermont (like most of the Northeast) has ample and often massive fruitings of chicken of the woods from mid-June through the end of summer. Unfortunately, up north we are stuck with the significantly inferior Laetiporus sulphureus, the yellow-pored chicken of the woods. The yellow-pored chicken is still delicious when it emerges as succulent tendrils, but all but the margin quickly becomes too woody to enjoy unless you braise the mushroom. I have yet to find any chicken of the woods in the Burlington area this summer, but there is no question that it is currently fruiting throughout the Northeast up through central Vermont, and should be arriving in the northern reaches of the region any day now.
Chicken of the woods is one of the most foolproof mushroom species to ID, with its bright orange upper surface, yellow or white pores, and yellow growing tip. The only catch is that that you should be able to determine whether the host tree is deciduous or coniferous. Do not eat chickens fruiting on hemlock, since many people are sensitive to this variety and can experience gastric distress. All chicken of the woods growing on hardwood stumps, dying hardwoods, or downed hardwoods is safe to eat. I often find the most beautiful, massive specimens on ash. Be sure to cook your chicken thoroughly – I like the tender young tips sautéed in a cast iron pan at a medium heat for 8-12 minutes with a bit of olive oil, a dash of butter, and ample garlic. More mature chickens are tasty marinated and then baked or braised for 30 -45 minutes at 350-375 degrees.
We are heading on a honeymoon after our wedding, but when we come back on July 11 we should be entering peak summer mushroom foraging season throughout the region. That means chanterelles, black trumpets, and more are just around the corner! May we have a sun-soaked wedding, followed by enough rain and warmth to awaken even the most stubborn chanterelle mycelium!